By Marc Stein
BOISE, Idaho -- Some dribbles of chatter from the NBA grapevine culled from various executives, scouts and insiders gathered at the annual D-League Showcase:
Caron Butler continues to be the player most frequently nominated by rival teams when asked to project the league's next big name to be traded.
Yet there is also a sense that the consuming nature of the Gilbert Arenas gun-possession case -- combined with the Wizards' presumed preference to move the older Antawn Jamison before Butler and the leverage they've likely lost because everyone knows that the Wizards are eager to deal -- has complicated Washington's efforts.
Another factor two Western Conference executives threw out Wednesday: Whether it's the secondary nature of his role with Arenas back from his knee issues or his struggles to adapt to Flip Saunders' offense, Butler just had his two best seasons when Arenas wasn't playing. The prospect of a long suspension (or worse) for Arenas could give Washington further pause when it comes to moving its next-best player.
But the sense in the stands here in Boise -- where each of the D-League's 16 franchise plays two games in front of an audience mostly comprised of NBA folks -- is that more teams than not believe Butler could be moved before the Feb. 18 trading deadline.
One of the league's meatier trade exceptions, worth $3.2 million from last January's Chucky Atkins trade to Oklahoma City, expires Thursday for the Nuggets.
But two sources with knowledge of the Nuggets' thinking said it's unlikely that they will use the trade "credit" -- most commonly employed to acquire a player via trade without having to send out a matching salary or giving anything up beyond future draft considerations or cash -- to avoid adding further to Denver's luxury-tax bill.
The Nuggets also still possess a larger exception worth $3.7 million that's available until Aug. 9, from last August's Steven Hunter trade with Memphis, if their plans change and they feel they need to make a move.
At least two sources with knowledge of Orlando's thinking remain convinced that the Magic will not consider trading reserve center Marcin Gortat before the summer.
The Magic continue to give the impression that it's too soon for them to consider shake-up moves, even when they're "just playing terrible" ... in the words of coach Stan Van Gundy after Tuesday's road loss to lowly Indiana.
After spending more than $80 million on this season's roster, Orlando appears to have convinced most of its peers that it is going to give the current group a full season to see what it can achieve.
The Bucks tried without success, sources said, to trade reserve guard Roko Ukic in recent weeks, only for Ukic to surprise them by taking the unusual step of asking Milwaukee to release him from his contract immediately.
Ukic had to forfeit more than $2 million in guaranteed salary this season and next season to do so, but only has to recoup closer to $1 million because of American taxes to break even.
Mavericks director of scouting Amadou Fall, who normally would be part of Dallas’ annual contingent at the D-League Showcase, has officially accepted the league’s offer to help launch new NBA offices in the South African capital of Johannesburg.
The Mavs, though, have not yet decided if they will seek an immediate replacement for Fall, who had a key role in the drafting of prized Mavs rookie Rodrigue Beaubois and spent more than a decade with the franchise.
Their traveling party in Boise is sizable even without the popular Fall, headed by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Also here: Mavs assistant general manager Keith Grant, veteran scout Dick Baker and two representatives from the D-League franchise coming to the Dallas suburb of Frisco next season which Nelson co-owns: Spud Webb from the front office and coach Nancy Lieberman.
League officials pursued the Senegal native for the South African post for some time and were determined to hire Fall, who has served as a lead ambassador for the league on numerous "Basketball Without Borders" community outreach trips to the region.